Mumford & Sons – Babel

It’s been about two months since I’ve written a music review.  It isn’t that I haven’t been picking up new music, it’s just that I haven’t been inspired to write about any of the albums I’ve been listening to.  I may try to sneak in a general summary of the albums I’ve had on rotation lately next week, but I finally found some inspiration in the new Mumford album.

It’s no secret I enjoyed the last album.  I listened to it fairly regularly up until I got tired of hearing it consistently on the radio.  I even saw them live at one of the most frightening concert going experiences I’ve ever had.  This includes being punched in the head at a metal show in college.  Whatever the case may be, I have enjoyed their emotional brand of banjo laden folk rock.  Perhaps that is why I’m surprised at how conflicted I am over the new album and any subsequent albums moving forward.

Generally speaking the last album was met with praise.  It seemed like Mumford was filling a void in the music realm that many thought was lacking.  Sure there were other acts out there more deserving of the honor of being the pioneers of the folk genre, but they were the band that many locked onto.  So, when they went back to the studio to work on their next album, did they think of how they could push the limits and reinvent the genre?  No, they went out and produced an album that the masses would buy.  Not every band is looking be Radiohead or produce St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Some bands are just happy to have fans and keep playing the style of music that got them famous.  There has to be a reason Nickleback is one of the biggest bands on the planet right now.  Regardless, they stuck to their formula.

If you’ve never noticed the Mumford formula you need to put on one of their songs right now.  Most likely it started kind of slow, there are a few that get that banjo going right away, but most likely it started slow.  Some where along the way, most likely before the chorus, there was a big build up of the tempo of the music, the introduction of the banjo, and the song took off at a frantic pace. If the song started slow you thought, “Wow, that was a big emotional build-up.  I feel so alive!”  However, they aren’t done with the emotional roller coaster that is their music just yet.  Somewhere half way through the song, they get quiet again and reenact their previous build-up.  The song may end upbeat or quiet.  Either way, they have taken you through a range of emotions.  The problem there is if you notice the pattern.  Instead of enjoying the ride, you feel the monotony of the pattern.

Sorry I didn’t mean to get off on a rant here.  I did actually intend to review the new album.

The album starts off with the title track off the album: “Babel”.  Although it is certainly a prototypical Mumford song that follows the exact formula I just spoke of, I do like the ferocious beginning.  Perhaps it was taking a break from Mumford for a while, but I found it to be a really fun song.  I do laugh when I hear lead singer Marcus Mumford pronounce babel like table.  I’m not sure if that is a foreigner thing or not.  The next two songs certainly keep moving right on along with the typical Mumford formula. The banjo line in “Whispers in the Dark” makes me smile for sure.  I like the harmonizing and quick pace of the song, but the banjo makes me think the banjo player should be jumping around barefoot with his overalls on at a hoedown somewhere.  Of course, “I Will Wait” has a pretty similar effect with the banjo as well.

“Ghosts That We Knew” is probably the first song on the album that has me thinking Mumford can vary it up slightly.  The song starts off low-key and pretty much stays there most of the time.  It has a much more quiet and powerful feel to it.  I think “Lover of the Light” is probably my favorite song on the album.  The tone and tempo seem different from some of the other things Mumford has tried.  I actually listened to this album while running the other day and this song reminded me of some of the material on the “Into the Wild” Soundtrack.  It has that exploration and west ward expansion feel.  I do get a little disappointed by Mumford throwing their formula into it, but I still really like it.

I think “Hopeless Wanderer” may be the most frustrating song on the album for me.  I want to like it; however, it feels like they try to employ the formula over and over and over again in it.  I do like that is has three different tempos to it, but it seems somewhat disjointed in how they set them up.  It starts quiet, gets somewhat frantic and emotional, breaks into a steady strumming of melody, drops back into a harmonized quiet part, and then breaks into the real breakdown with the inclusion of the quick banjo line.  I can’t help but feel like this song was a cut and paste job.  They wanted to do their formula, but they liked two different emotional pick up parts, so they just used both.

I understand I sound like I’m somewhat bashing Mumford and their ways, and I probably am to some degrees.  I think they produced an album with a lot of good songs on it, I just wish it wasn’t so predictable.  If you think I’m making this up, put on the first three songs on the album.  Each one of them has a part in the middle where they get quiet just to bring it back up to the emotional breakdown.  If you’re like me, you may actual become frustrated when you come to realize that every song follows a similar pattern.

I’m sure I’ll continue listening to this album for a few weeks.  I may even listen to a few songs longer than that, but I just don’t think Mumford can go out there and assume their fans won’t notice this pattern in each of their songs.

Teacher Grade: C (because I’m still a sucker for the pattern at times)

The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

It’s been a little while since I reviewed an album on here.  I’m not saying nothing good has come out, but I feel like I have to put a whole lot more effort into reviewing an album than a beer.  Not sitting in front of a computer or working in a place where I could really listen to an album for review makes it difficult for me to fully listen to and appreciate what I’ve picked up recently.  Then an album comes out that I have been looking forward to for months, and I can’t help but find time to listen to it.  Last week, while sitting on the beach, I listened to a few albums nearly every day.  So here comes the first music review in months.

Gaslight Anthem isn’t exactly a brand new band.  Hailing from my home state of New Jersey, this is their fourth album in a career that spans back to their inception in 2006.  Their initial album, Sink or Swim, helped them get their feet under them and develop a following.  The next two albums helped them build a huge following; however, all three albums were on small record labels.  This album has been released on Mercury Records which you will find is associated with Island Def Jam and the Universal Music Group.  Thus, this is somewhat their big album to “make it”.  I haven’t heard them on the radio yet in this area, but I heard them multiple times on some trips to PA this summer.  Of course, this gets the high school version of me mad that they would “sell out”, but I’m just glad they haven’t gone and broken up.

Gaslight Anthem continue in the great tradition of music the forefathers of NJ set out before them.  Bruce Springsteen sang about the life he grew up in and around.  He sang, and still continues to sing, about the life of the middle class factory worker and other people struggling to get by.  Bon Jovi even did this to some extent in some of their songs.  Listen to “Living on a Prayer”.  Anyway, Gaslight comes across with a similar message and sound to their music.  No they aren’t an 80’s glam rock band, but they have a gritty sound meant for hardworking Americans.  Their lyrics also comes across in much the same way.  They sing about people struggling with many facets of life.

The first song on the album, “45”, also happens to be the first single released for the album. It’s an upbeat song that hooks the listener and really gets you singing along right from the start.  It’s also an excellent middle of the road song to introduce someone new to the style Gaslight has been producing for years.  The melodic nature of the band really comes across on this and many other songs on this album.  Although singer Brian Fallon’s voice doesn’t exude the tone of a typical melodic singer, you can tell how the music is an entire package.  It allows for Fallon’s gritty voice to create great melodies that only compliment the music.

Gaslight tends to produce two different types of songs.  They make songs like “45” that are upbeat and get you moving.  But, they also create some really surprisingly good slow songs.  “Handwritten” is another great upbeat song on the record.  Although Fallon actually starts with a little more of his quieter approach on the singing, the upbeat drumming and guitars keep the song fast paced.  “Handwritten” topically follows the same themes as another song on the album.  It talks about the emotion involved with something being handwritten.  “Too Much Blood” is a much slower song, but you can tie the actual act of writing something emotional to “Handwritten”.  The lyrics, “What can I keep for myself if I tell you my hell? / What would be left to take to my grave? / And what’s left for you, my lover to save? / What’s left for only you to take? / If I put too much blood on the page”, help display the emotion of letting it all go through the written word.  Obviously Fallon understands the power of the written language.  “Too Much Blood” does happen to be one of my favorite songs on the album.  The music is quite a bit slower than some of the other songs, which allows Fallon’s voice to really shine through.  He almost sounds like he is in pain about revealing too much of himself.

There are certainly a few other really good songs on this album as well. “Keepsake” is similar in sound to “Too Much Blood”.  The music tones down to allow Fallon’s voice to really take control.  The chorus picks up musically to match the passion in the vocals. I really like both “Mae” and “National Anthem” as well.   “Mae” features some of my favorite lyrics because they have some of the prototypical lyrics for Gaslight.  He sings about both “Betty Davis eyes” and waiting for kingdom come “with the radio on”.  For those of you who aren’t Gaslight fans, they are lyrics that have shown up in previous songs.  While “Mae” is a slower song on the album, “National Anthem” is the slowest one.  The music is completely stripped down to just a guitar and some stringed instruments.  Fallon’s voice is slightly more melodic with only a little hint of grit.  However, it seems to just tell the story of struggling through life.  It’s something really different for them, but it is a great song.

There is really only one song I don’t like on the album.  Gaslight, however, is only slightly at fault for this.  They decided to cover “Sliver” by Nirvana.  Perhaps this speaks a little more to their influences; however, I personally don’t really like Nirvana at all.  I immediately thought it sounded like a Nirvana cover the second I heard it.  The only reason I don’t like it is because it doesn’t feature the same melodic style I’ve come to enjoy from Gaslight.

If you happen to pick up this CD, you should definitely check out their back catalog.  Although they have cleaned up their style a little, they are still sticking to the style that gained them followers in the first place.  Sure, They’ve joined a bigger record label, and I’ve heard them on the radio, but they aren’t looking to lose their original fans either.

Teacher Grade: A

Staying Relevant

I’ve been fascinated by music since about middle school.  It’s funny because it really doesn’t seem all that long ago to me, but it has been almost twenty years since I was there.  I can remember being really happy about the new Foo Fighters album coming out then, as well as, more than a few other albums that I still love today.  It’s funny to watch how those bands have developed and changed over the years since I first started to enjoy them.  I can still remember our eighth grade trip where we seemed to just pass around a couple cd’s amongst a few of us.  We were listening to Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, 311, and Offspring.  Two of those bands don’t make music together anymore, but there are two others that still do.  I don’t really listen to 311 or Offspring at all anymore but, as I said last week, I catch a few new songs from them on the radio.  It’s the new Offspring song that influenced my thoughts for this post this week.

Music styles and tastes are consistently changing in America and around the world.  My kids asked me if I thought 2pac was the best rapper ever the other week when they unveiled their hologram of him at Bonnaroo.  I told them I thought he was good for his time, but he would probably be seen as just another old rapper today.  They started to disagree, but I stopped them with a few examples.  I asked them if they thought Dr. Dre, Busta Rhymes, or P.Diddy were great rappers.  They understood that these rappers who once were on top of the music world were no longer on quite at the same level.  Now-a-days they are into Lil Wayne, Drake, and a slew of other one hit wonder rappers.  I feel like the rap world is tougher to stay relevant in for a long period of time, but bands seem to find a way to vary their style in such a way to stay on top of the music world.

The Offspring are a band I had never really noticed as being a band that continued to change their style to fit the times.  They premiered back in the earlier 80’s, which I actually just found out.  They initially were considered a full-on punk band.  They hung out and played shows with bands like Rancid and Bad Religion.  By the mid 90’s they had managed to find a mainstream hit with their album “Smash”.  This record jumped them up into a new category.  They now fit in with bands like Sublime and Green Day.  It was a time when punk rock was coming into the mainstream, but it had a slightly more radio friendly feel.  “Americana” and “Conspiracy of One” seemed like strange releases to me.  They were still trying to maintain their punk roots, but they seemed to really be pushing for mainstream success with songs like “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” and “Original Prankster”.  They certainly lost any remaining true punk fans they had with that one.  Some of their newer stuff like “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” seemed to bring them back into a slightly more punk feel, but they had that Rise Against rock feel to it still.  This leads us to the latest singles they have coming out.

I was a little disappointed to realize the entire album isn’t available yet, but Offspring are set to release their latest album, “Days Go By”, later this month.  They started to release the song here and there on the radio in my area.  The first time I heard it I thought it was a new rock band; however, Dexter Holland has such obvious lead vocals I shortly realized it was actually a new Offspring song.  It would seem they have once again reinvented themselves.  Attempting to see if the rest of the album sounded the same, I realized they may not have totally strayed from the quirky songs that really got them popular.

I’ve included the new video for the song “Days Go By” at the bottom of this page just incase you want to hear what their new stuff sounds like.  Right from the beginning of the song you can tell they’ve taken yet a different direction.  They don’t seem to be that fast passed punk style band.  They also don’t appear to be the quirky poppy rock band from “Pretty Fly for a White Guy”.  That is….at least not on this song.  The first guitar riff they enter in with immediately reminds me of a Foo Fighter’s song like “Learn to Fly”.  The drums are slow and steady and the vocals come in calm and sung normally.  It’s a little strange to see The Offspring heading in a direction that may be showing their age.  They may have, however, not completely done away with the silly songs.  The other song they have released, “Cruising California (Bumpin’ in my Trunk)” seems to go slightly back to their funny ways.  It certainly isn’t quite the same feel as the old funny songs, but you can tell they are hoping to have a summer hit with this one.  It still has a slightly more poppy radio friendly feel, and they are almost rhyming instead of singing along to the music.  They also pull in a female vocal who is clearly referring to the “bumbin'” as some type of booty poppin thing.  Yeah I said that.  Perhaps they haven’t completely given up on their silly ways.

I’m really interested to hear what the rest of the album sounds like.  I’m really wondering if this song “Cruising California” gets big over the course of summer or not.  Either way, they are certainly attempting to stay relevant in an ever-changing music scene, and the fact that they have been a band for almost thirty years shows some crazy staying power.  I probably won’t be purchasing this album in the end, but they have certainly peaked my interest.

Radio: Love vs Hate

I like to try to fit in a little music post every week, but I sometimes just don’t find the time to get together a blog that actually reviews something I like at that point in time.  Therefore, I sometimes rely on talking about the various albums I’m listening to at that moment, and other times I like to just talk about some of my thoughts on music in general.  I legitimately do try to enjoy about as much music as I possibly can; however, there are some things that I just can’t get in to at all.  I feel like I run a constant battle with the radio.  My wife is a big radio fan, so she always wants to have the radio on when we are in the car.  I would much rather have my iPod on.  We have managed to find a good mixture of this when we ride together using satellite radio.  There are stations she will want to hear, and I can find stuff I would rather hear as well.  Of course, on longer trips, I benefit from her not really being able to stay awake very long.  It’s not that I always dislike what is on the radio; it’s just that I can’t stand what I get sometimes.

The Hits: I think my biggest issue is with what people consider popular music to be.  There are plenty of artists I end up listening

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to and not minding all that much because they are catchy.  I find my self singing along to that new Carly Rae Jepsen song.  It’s not like I find it all that talented, but it is catchy, and I’m always a sucker for a really catchy song.  I still find myself singing along to some Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, or LMFAO songs.  The bigger problem for me is when I hear artists I just don’t get or appreciate.  One of the biggest problems here for me is Nicki Minaj.  There are a few others I could name that I have a real problem with, but she may be the one artist I don’t even like to hear the voice of.  She seems to have gotten famous for making funny voices, singing in accents, and just trying to be outlandish and in your face.  I saw an interview recently where she just slipped into an accent without even realizing it.  The interviewer called her out on it, and she got a little embarrassed over it.  Despite not really liking her as a person.  It’s really more about the way in which I don’t understand her fame.  Why do people like her?  I guess I don’t like having to compete with channel surfing when I always seem to find her music on the dial.

Variety: Another huge problem with radio: no variety.  Long drives prove this point to me all the time.  How many times have you been driving in the car and counted the amount of times you’ve heard that same song.  It’s almost always that big summer song.  “Hips Don’t Lie”, “California Girls”, and “Party Rockin” have been songs that I started the summer thinking this is catchy and ended the summer never wanting to hear it again.  I could probably name five artists on here, tell you to turn on your radio, and I guarantee one of them is being played on the radio right now.  (Adele, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Rhianna).  Give it a try to let me know if I’m right.  Even when they find a newer artist to play, they play it so often it kills it.  I did a little blog on Gotye and how much I enjoyed his new CD.  Now I’ve had to hear the single so often I never want to hear it again.  We went to Bamboozle two weeks ago where we must have heard that single 10 times on the way up.  Then we got to the venue and some DJ is remixing it and another band is covering it.  You have to be kidding me.  Plus, what is up with that bad slightly more upbeat version they play on the radio?

Stealing what I love:  The last gigantic problem I have with radio is they find bands that I enjoy, expose everyone to them, and I can no longer see them live.   I don’t care that bands become more widely known.  Ironically I listened to a few songs yesterday by different punk bands that state it isn’t selling out.  I’m fine with bands making money, but I want to still be able to see these bands at a reasonable venue for a reasonable price.  The Black Keys just played the Verizon Center here in DC.  That is just crazy to me!  Also, they take songs that I enjoy and beat them into the ground.  I will admit to overplaying some albums for myself sometimes, but I want to be the one that is responsible for that.

I’m not a radio hater really, but I think the system needs to be reformed to make it better.  I used to listen to the college radio station by my house, and I loved that I could call up and request music.  I wish radio stations still did more of this.  They have to get in 2 Adele songs every hour, or they have to play some new Britney Spears song.  I would like radio with a little more variety.  I’m not surprised most people are moving to satellite.  You get more variety, and you have more station options.  What are your thoughts on radio or the state of music today?

Jack White – Blunderbuss

I wrote a little synopsis a little while ago of people I thought were one day destined and guaranteed to be hall of fame inductees.  Jack White was right at the top of that list.  I certainly think he has to be considered one of those musical geniuses of our time period.  It’s strange looking at musicians who I have actually seen from their inception to current time becoming hall of famers.  These rock gods are supposed to be people that my parents listened to.  It’s almost like how I hate knowing that half of the best athletes out there now a days are younger than I am.  When did all the cool people stop being people I could also look up to as my senior.  Anyway, I’m amazed at the ability of Jack White to achieve greatness in so many different styles.  The White Stripes was his rock group, the Raconteurs are his folk group, and the Dead Weathers are his punk band.  With him finding so many different niches already, I was really excited for his solo release.  I was quite curious what style it would be in at least.

I was actually quite pleased with the result of this record.  I have picked up every album Jack White has made and, although I don’t really enjoy The Dead Weathers all that much, I would say I really enjoy his ability to create a unique sound with his different projects.  One song stands out as one that would have fit perfectly on this record for me.  The last song on The Raconteur’s album Consoler of the Lonely is called “Carolina Drama”.  It tells the story of some domestic violence, but it has a real folk country sound to it.  I think it’s probably the song that reminds me the most of the type of material White put together for this album.  Thankfully, “Carolina Drama” is a personal favorite of mine.

Back in January White gave his fans a little taste of his upcoming album with the song “Love Interruption”.  I was really interested to hear what his sound was like.  White Stripes had broken up and none of the other acts he has were really putting anything out.  I wasn’t really sure what his inspiration would be like for this album.  The song is probably one of the more quiet songs on the album.  In fact, it doesn’t seem to feature all that many instruments at all.  There is a guitar and organ for sure, but there really aren’t all that many other instruments to accompany it.  I was curious if the entire album was going to be this low key. Also the topic seemed to be really interesting as well.  He recently was divorced from his wife so, like many others, I was curious to know if this album was about the break up.  He didn’t seem all that broken up when they threw a party to celebrate the time they spent together.  I guess there’s nothing like a good divorce party.

Even though I think “Love Interruption” is a great song, I’m really happy that this album has some crazy amount of variety to it.  If you’ve read one of my music reviews before then you know I definitely appreciate an album that keeps me interested.  I can’t hear too much of the same thing over and over again.  Thankfully White’s voice alone keeps things extremely interesting.  “Missing Pieces” is a great song to start the entire album off with.  Once again the music is somewhat subdued and plays second fiddle to White’s voice, but it complements it extremely well.  Jack’s twangy voice and ample story telling will really rope the listener in.  There is a quick little guitar solo in the middle that leads to a nice little musical breakdown; however, the rest of the song is heavy on organ, keyboard, and drums.  Once again it seems like White could be dealing with the break up as he sings about someone taking pieces of him and leaving.

There are plenty of other songs on the album I enjoy quite a bit as well.  “Sixteen Saltines” follows the opening track and it has a much different feel to it.  It opens with a really loud and blaring guitar line.  White’s voice starts with a yelling quality, but he quickly transitions to a falsetto delivery halfway through.  I like how his voice even changes throughout the song.  The song “I’m Shakin'” has a very obvious bluesy quality to it for sure.  One might even refer to this one as his Black Keys song.  He has a very good twang to his voice that is really complemented by the soulful backup singers he uses on this song.  “Take Me With You When You Go”, the final song on the album, may be one of my favorite songs.  It doesn’t have the same big flashy quality that some of the other songs do, but it features a little more of the instrumental aspects and good harmony.  An added bonus, and the real reason I enjoy the song, is the way in which it almost transitions to a completely different song about half way through.  There are some really fuzzy guitar, hefty drums, and very quickly sung lyrics by both White and the accompanying singer.  Before the end they manage to tie the first and second half of the song together to give is great continuity.

There are actually a couple of songs I’m not huge on but, unlike other albums from other artists, I don’t detest them enough to skip them.  “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” is an incredibly catchy song that I think I would normally like.  It’s definitely a toe tapper for sure, but I find myself just getting a little annoyed with the song overall.  Plus I keep thinking he is singing Hippopotamus Poor Boy.  I know he was going for that, but I don’t quite get the same enjoyment out of it I’m sure he intended.  “Blunderbuss”, the title song for the album, is another fairly good song, but it just doesn’t do a whole lot for me.  I almost feel like it’s missing something to keep me interested.  I have a feeling this is more of just a personal feeling on these songs after listening to the album a bunch of times.

Ultimately I really like this album, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up on my list of top albums of the year.  I’ll have to see if it has staying power for me.  There is already an album or two I think will make that eventual list.  There are a bunch of other great songs on the album I didn’t mention; therefore, you need to open up Spotify or go get the album and give it a listen.  If you’ve ever enjoyed something White has produced in the past, I think you’ll like this one too!

Teacher Grade: A

Bamboozle in Review

I’ve been a big fan of music for quite a while now.  That’s probably a silly statement to make, but I have really allowed it to play a major role in my life for years.  I set out trying find different styles and bands that I loved; however, as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that I just don’t really enjoy some of this stuff the same way I used to.  Regardless of that, I decided that I wanted to head out to the second day of Bamboozle in Asbury Park NJ this past Saturday.  While there were 30 or so bands and groups I didn’t know performing, the headliners were the ones I was set on seeing.  I have managed to drag my wife into this love of music back when we were dating.  Ultimately, I got her super hooked on Jimmy Eat World.  We’ve seen them two or three times since getting married, but I saw they were playing this festival, so I knew we needed to go.  The other headliners that were playing were Foo Fighters, Blink 182, and All American Rejects.  Having never seen Blink I was really excited to see them, but they got sick so My Chemical Romance took over.  Definitely less excited about them, but I thought they’d put on a good show.

Living in DC, and not wanting to pay for a hotel, we set out for NJ around 10 AM Saturday morning.  I thought the set up of this show was rather interesting.  They didn’t have a band go on until 2:00, so we could kind of take our time getting up there for the show.  Even then, Foo Fighters were scheduled to end around 9:30, so we could drive the four hours back to our house in DC.  It seemed like the perfect way to make sure we had a fun filled Saturday and got to head home and save some money.  There was some traffic getting up there, but we managed to make it up there around 3 something.

They did have a fairly good set up on getting everyone to the show, of course, it seemed less perfect on the way home.  We parked about 20 minutes away at a local race track and caught a shuttle to the concert area.   It was one of the more interesting little set ups for a concert area I’ve seen in a while.  Evidently they had 7 different stages where you could go see bands play.  Also, they didn’t try to cater to a single music style.  There was rock, rap, metal, punk, ska, DJ’s, and even a comedian on Sunday night.  Truthfully we only saw about 4 of the stages.  I’m not sure where the others were hiding.  Ultimately we ended up staying at the main stage.

Yay $7 taste of the Rockies

We did have to purchase beer right away to set us apart from the masses of little children.  It was actually an interesting mix of kids and adults who needed to feel young again.  Anyway, we made it all the way down the boardwalk to the main stage just before All American Rejects went on.  We found a spot on the beach where we could sit.  We of course were a little ways away from the stage, but I’m fine with just sitting back and listening.  I prefer to not stand in a sweaty pit of people anymore.  I don’t want people crowd surfing on my head.  It was nice being able to sit on the beach, see the ocean, and enjoy the music.

I’ve never been a big fan of All American Rejects.  Their songs are catchy and all, but I was never really a big fan of them overall.  My wife, however, is a big fan of theirs, so we caught their whole set first.  They played a pretty good show, but I hate a band continuously cursing at me.  They were the least rock star band there, and yet, they wanted to act like big bad rock stars the whole time.  Thankfully, that was the last band that decided to be overly obnoxious on stage.  Jimmy Eat World took the stage next.  They are probably the least rock star band that played that night.  They make great music, and it doesn’t really seem to be about the image with them.  Thankfully they didn’t play anything off the new album because I really didn’t care for it.  They did however still play things all the way back to Clarity.  I like it when a band knows when to ignore a record.  They played a great set, and I know my wife was happy to see them again.

It was now that I set about going and getting some pizza.  Of course waiting in line, or mob, for food made me really annoyed; however, it wasn’t overly expensive.  Therefore, I was alright with the whole ordeal.  This did cause me to miss the beginning of My Chemical Romance.  I’ve never been a big fan of theirs.  I enjoy some of the radio hits they’ve had, but I don’t really know a lot of the songs.  The ones I did know were fun; however, I could tell they were a fan favorite there from all the people singing along.  While I wasn’t a big fan, I still did think they put on a good show.  I was also really happy to see they dropped the gothic stuff.

Finally it was time for Foo Fighters.  They were given two hours to play which was shorter than the last time I saw them, but I was happy they had them playing for a little while.  Surprisingly they also had to get up to NYC for playing with Mick Jagger that night.  They made sure to let us all know they would be taking a helicopter from Asbury to NYC so they could do both.  I think it’s pretty cool they played two hour and then went and did SNL.  Anyway, some of the stuff they did in their live show was similar to what I saw a few months ago here in DC.  They still played a great show.  I also wish I didn’t have 5 kids next to me trying to dig a whole in the sand and an older woman having fun with her light up hoola hoop behind me.  I feel like that was the antithesis of the old and the young crowd right there.

The worst part of the night was trying to get home.  We all rushed for the shuttles, and it took a while to get back to the parking area.  Thankfully we made it there and had no traffic getting home.  We finally got home around 2:30 in the morning.  It was a real long day, but it was a lot of fun for sure.  I’m not sure I’d do it again, but I suppose it would depend on the line-up.  I couldn’t pass up on Jimmy, Foo, and Blink.  Maybe next year they’ll really get Blink to play for sure.  I also would have liked to get to a few of the other bands playing on different stages.  Still, it was a good time and a nice way to get away for a day.  Even if I was exhausted when I got home.

Albums in Rotation: Folk Rock Edition

I like to do my Album in Rotation blog when I don’t have a specific band I’m looking to review.  I tossed around, at one point in time, doing an individual review for all of these bands; however, I enjoy doing a blog that lets me knock out a lot of bands in one read.  The last version of these that I wrote ended up doing pretty well, so I figured it was time for another one.  I think I’m going to start trying to figure out a theme or something to name it in addition to just calling it Albums in Rotation.  Perhaps it will give others a better idea of what type of music they will be reading about.  It definitely can’t be a bad thing to think about.  This particular Albums in Rotation features folk rock.  I’m not sure one of these bands fits into that category really well, but I know the other three fit this category pretty well.  Here are the four albums I’ve been cycling through over the past two weeks.

M.WardA Wasteland Companion – The second half of the duo She & Him, M. Ward releases his newest solo effort.  It’s kind of
funny to refer to this as a solo album because he really has been a solo artist for most of his career.  Putting out music since 1999, he really has only started to garner big time attention lately.  M.Ward returns to what he does best on this album.  Although it is slightly more polished than some fans will be used to, technology is getting better and artists are putting out better records.  People need to deal with that.  Anyway, the first single off the album, “Primitive Girl”, has a much bigger sound than a lot of fans will be accustomed to, but Ward uses his deadpan delivery to remind everyone that he hasn’t changed.  There is actually a whole plethora of instruments that end up getting used throughout the entirty of the record, which I think helps to really add a lot of depth to this record.  It almost seems like a slightly more upbeat record at times for him.  “Sweetheart” brings Mrs. Deschanel in for a little guest backup vocals. Thankfully they only do this for a song.  Although I don’t mind She & Him, I want Ward to show that he is his own musician.

Trampled by TurtlesStars and Satellites – M.Ward is a pretty good blend of the folk influenced rock.  Trampled by Turtles ends up being closer to rock influenced folk.  I received a sampler with an old magazine subscription a few years ago.  While I don’t really remember a lot of the songs on it now, I do remember T by T had a song featured on it.  I loved the song, but I wasn’t really down with the rest of the album.  Seeing that they released another album, I quickly got it out hoping I would enjoy it more than their previous effort.  Thankfully I have!  T by T sort of sound like Fleet Foxes, but they don’t almost put me to sleep with their music.  With instruments like the banjo, mandolin, and fiddle, you feel like you’re listening to something that was composed on somebody’s back porch in Kentucky.  However, they have such good harmonies and melodies, you’ll be impressed by their ability to compose great music for a much wider audience.  “Alone” sounds like you could figure out a way to have an entire orchestra accompany them.  Thankfully, they also can get really down home folk as well.  “Walt Whitman” features some really fast banjo and fiddle work, and it has a little country tinge to it for sure.  “Risk” and “Don’t Look Down” are actually just instrumental songs on the album, but they are probably two of my favorite songs on the album.  They make me want to film some coming of age country adventure movie.

LuceroWomen & Work – Lucero is a band that I’ve been listening to for a little while, but they have never managed to really hold my attention.  I would like to predict that this one will manage to do just that, but I do wonder if that is true or not.  I really like this album, but I’m not sure if it has staying power. This is probably the least folk style album in this post, but it can almost be described as rock that has been influenced by punk and country.  You can definitely get a little bit more enthusiasm and attitude out of the lead singer, Ben Nichols’s, voice.  They start this album off with a rock and roll powerhouse song “On My Way Downtown”.  This song has a lot of the blusey rock sensibilities to it, but it also could be used for a killer line dance as well.  “Women & Work” has a slightly more old school rock and roll feel to it; however, the word honkey-tonk does come out in this song, so it also features a heavy dose of country as well.  I’ve said it before on here; I really like albums that are made for driving.  I can put down the windows for this one and enjoy a nice long drive.  Unfortunately it would be straight into traffic around here, but I’ll be keeping this one on rotation all summer.

Good Old War Come Back As Rain – I saved the band I’ve been listening to the most for last in this place.  I found out about GOW from my friend John who has reviewed here before.  He told me he found it using the “similar artists” feature on Spotify.  I’m quite happy he did because I’ve been really enjoying their release as of late.  Having only been around for about four years or so, they have definitely fine-tuned their sound into something that could almost become the next radio friendly Mumford and Sons.  They don’t really have the same sound, but they have a folk centered poppy sound that a lot of people will enjoy.  “Calling Me Names” is definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.  They have a very slight folk sound on this song with a lot of pop sensibilities.  I have a feeling this wouldn’t be pure enough for many hipsters, but I’m fine with it.  I don’t need to be an elitist.  Songs like “Loud Love” manage to show a little bit more of their country folk focus.  If you’re alright with a little pop in your folk, then you really need to check this band out!

I think I have a little something for everyone here.  So open up your Spotify and check a few of them out.  Feel free to tell me what you’ve been listening to lately too.

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